Archive for the ‘2000s’ Category

Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004)

“Before Sunrise” was an incredible exercise in on-screen chemistry and depiction of youthful romanticism as Julie Delpy’s Celine and Ethan Hawke’s Jesse, two twentysomethings traveling across Europe, meet on a train, decide on a whim to explore Vienna between trains, and personify all that is good about mutual attraction and falling in love without a care about the next day. Now, nine years later in this sequel, Jesse is in Paris promoting his novel about that fateful night, happens to glance to his right while answering questions during a book signing, and there sees his lost love. After tongue-tyingly cutting his Q&A short, he walks over and says hello, she says hello back, and off they go, continuing the odyssey they hurriedly cut short with an unfulfilled promise to meet in Vienna in December on that train platform nine years earlier. Jesse’s complete lack of surprise upon greeting Celine is striking and telling, as indeed later on he’ll admit that he thinks he wrote his book partly to draw her back to him. This is their reunion in Vienna in December after all.

“Before Sunset” essentially shares the same format as its predecessor, as Celine and Jesse traverse the city discussing topics far and wide, profound and petty, with some differences. “Before Sunrise” sprawled over the course of a night, while this sequel occurs essentially in real-time. Ironically, I sensed more time-based desperation between the two in the first film, as an impending sense of doom, as the sun would act as harbinger to their inevitable separation, contributed to their headlong passage into love as much as their sheer chemistry did. Here, they’re nine years older, more jaded, and at least at the outset have no illusions about rekindling that spark, as they’re looking back at that night with fascinated amusement as much as anything. That they do rekindle that spark once again should hardly come as a surprise, an outcome that is delightfully inevitable, yet that sense of idealized reverie I felt after the first film was lacking here. I’m struggling to remember a large majority of what Celine and Jesse discuss in both films – a flaw in the second film, a virtue in the first. In their first meeting, their inherent chemistry and body language speak leaps and bounds over what they happen to be speaking with their mouths, never more apparent than during my favorite scene in the first film, as they share a listening booth in a record store, listening to a record while both incessantly sneak glances at one another, never daring to meet each others’ gaze. Does Jesse want to kiss Celine, does she want him to? Their attraction is depicted flawlessly in those eyes, and that attraction carries them towards sunrise and an unknown tomorrow. I thought “Before Sunset” relied more heavily on dialogue, but damned if I could give a damn about the random crap they’re talking about. Yeah, it’s natural and organic, moreso than the endless dreck of most romance movies in this day and age, and maybe I’m unfairly looking for that once-present youthful spark in these two that’s, like their youth itself, simply no longer there, but for the first time while watching these two incredibly-written characters, I grew bored, and that cannot be discounted.

If nothing else, this film is an incredible technical achievement by Linklater, for his minutes-long single tracking shots, and by Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke for never missing a beat during said shots, walking and talking as fictional characters in a very real city, the difficulty of which I cannot imagine. Ultimately, I was often admiring those technical accomplishments of a film director and actors more than the story – I was admiring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke rather than Celine and Jesse, and that lack of immersion that the first film practically bathed in left me wanting. But, maybe I as a 27-year-old who would like very much to meet and fall for a beautiful french woman on a train to Vienna am just yet to experience the perspective of these two now-older people, revisiting, and perhaps re-becoming, those different people they once were. After all, we don’t even learn into well into the film that **SPOILER** Celine is seeing a war photographer and Jesse is in an unhappy marriage and has a son he idolizes **END SPOILER**. I was startled by these revelations, but to Celine and Jesse, and to the screenplay, it’s just another topic amongst the many covered by these two. If I can’t identify with such momentous life changes, I can at least hope to examine them with the delicate grace that these two do. I can’t wait to be as unprepared for Before Midnight as I was for this.

Enter the Void (Gaspar Noé, 2009)

In her review for the New York Times, Manohla Dargis writes, “If you care about strong stories, don’t bother. Hardly anything happens here in conventional movie terms…”.  I disagree.  Although its narrative certainly isn’t conventional, as it’s told entirely from the first-person perspective of Tokyo-bound drug dealing/abusing American Oscar, both living and dead (though from the back of his head when glimpsing flashes of his past), the story of his life, death, and afterlife is told in a way that I feel covers a lot more ground than a more conventional narrative.  The first segment, a sort of day-in-the-life – style glimpse of Oscar’s life in a squalid apartment with his stripper sister Linda, doesn’t tell us much about this kid, but enough to intrigue.  After his death at the hands of trigger-happy cops, the collage of flashbacks and then what is presumably Oscar’s spirit drifting through Tokyo, overseeing the people he left behind, we’re presented with subjective, deeply personal information that a more objective, traditional narrative wouldn’t be privy to.  A different film would let us know that Oscar and Linda were deeply scarred by the car accident that gruesomely killed their parents, but Noé’s disjointed narrative, going back and forth through Oscar’s past as you’d imagine one’s life would flash before his or her eyes at the moment of death, repeating and emphasizing certain images like the accident, tell us just how much they were scarred.  The little snippets of past, presented in no real chronological order, give us just enough background and foundation into the story and the lives of the characters to make the present much more relevant.  Sure, the incestuous desire between Oscar and Linda is played up ad nauseam to the point of tedium, but nevertheless, the moment in which Oscar’s noncorporeal spirit enters the back of the head of the sleazy strip club proprietor / Linda’s employer while he’s screwing her, so that both Oscar and we are essentially screwing his very sister from the first person perspective, is a disturbing but psychologically captivating one, as Oscar, now dead, can finally fulfill his forbidden desires/fantasies without consequence.  Ironically, once Oscar becomes a silent, invisible, flying camera lens, his deepest fears, desires, and instincts become that much more tangible.

The psychadelic finale, with lots of people having lots of sex amongst lots of neon lights and mystical crotch-auras, may be overkill, despite being a technical marvel (and takes a page directly out of Spielberg’s Minority Report), but that sequence, as well as what immediately precedes it as Alex’s spirit/eyes transition between reality and a light-filled void, could represent his slipping further and further from our reality and into what lies beyond.  This certainly was not the 2 ½ hour completely non-narrative, drug-fueled, Brakhage-esque light-and-color fest I was expecting, as the busy-as-hell camera, flamboyant purgatory of Tokyo, and disintegration of the major players in Oscar’s life allow us to attach our own subjectivity to the silent camera that is the first-person perspective of Alex’s spirit, making our subjectivity his, and thus making an otherwise unexceptional story of a druggie’s death and how it affects the other losers who associated with him a lot more interesting than it ought to be.  This will be an incredibly divisive film, no doubt.  Those it doesn’t click with could hopefully, at the least, admire it as a technical marvel, despite its (literally) dizzying repetitions, both storywise and camerawise. For everyone else, this could be the future of cinematic narrative storytelling.


Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik, 2010)

This was the first film I’d watched after I finished reading Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces, so naturally it unfairly became that movie in which I’d inevitably look for all of Campbell’s factors of shared myth.  Sure enough, they’re there – the mythological hero (Ree, setting out from her common-day home (her run-down home and destitute, but good-hearted, younger siblings) being called or lured into an adventure (the need to find her bail-skipping father lest her family lose their home) and crossing a threshold into the wild and frightening unknown (the secret world of meth cookers), often guided by a helper or mentor (her uncle, the rough and often mean but streetwise (or meth-infested hell-wise) Teardrop), facing off against gate-guarding monsters / ogres (the terrifying old man and his (inbred?) group of hillbilly meth heads, Garret Dillahunt’s slackjawed and useless sheriff), and finally the gaining of a boon, in this case the atonement with the father (quite literally in this case, as Ree’s whole purpose is to atone with Jessup, whether he’s living or dead), which physical boon and the enlightened knowledge that comes with it can be used to restore the non-mythical ordinary world from whence Ree commenced her journey (again, her threatened home).  If I misread either this film or Campbell’s thesis in general, sue me, but regardless, the film certainly has a mythic journey quality, which while adding a level of excitement to an otherwise impossibly depressing setting, perhaps was the very reason why it didn’t click with me as much as it could have.  It just seemed like the lines between good and evil were too delineated, too apparent (with the exception of Teardrop, played wonderfully as an outwardly stoic yet undeniably conflicted man by John Hawkes) – Ree is the hero you can’t not cheer for (how she grows to be such a responsible and morally virtuous young woman in that living environment is beyond me, which may contribute to my problem in and of itself), while the meth heads, obsessed with mutual silence and weird semi-familial bonds, she must wrestle information from, both literally and figuratively, are the evil monsters she the hero must do battle with who you couldn’t find an admirable quality in with an electron microscope.  Despite Ree being an incredibly admirable and determined protagonist (Jennifer Lawrence displays a maturity much, much beyond her years in her performance), intelligent and headstrong, perhaps to a fault with how it often gets her into incredible danger, I would’ve liked to see more people and less archetypes overall.  Nevertheless, the cinematography and muted color palette of this wasteland are INCREDIBLE, and a wasteland it definitely is, like what you’d imagine the Ozarks would look like after Skynet used the world’s nuclear arsenal to destroy the world.  But no, this is the present day, and if this is really what this significant portion of America is like, with long-rusted over cars strewing the countryside and its inhabitants living by this extreme code of silence and territoriality, I have to get my head out of Joseph Campbell’s myths and face reality.


Requiem (Hans-Christian Schmid, 2006)

To even say this is cliché, but regardless, a major strength of Requiem is how some dynamic good vs. evil, religion vs. science argument isn’t thrown in your face, but lingers in the background; Michaela’s succumbing to epilepsy and how her resentful and ignorant mother and an overly-zealous priest convince her fragile mind that exorcism is the only answer, certainly has that science vs. religion argument embedded in the very core of its story, but is presented in a way that it just is what it is –  a girl with epilepsy and possibly a deeper mental illness, and how the differing opinions of her family, clergy, boyfriend, and best friend both alleviate and exacerbate that condition.  You’re never knocked over the head with the filmmakers’ grand philosophical treatise, you’re simply left to watch Michaela’s slow descent into mental illness (or, according to some, possession) in a minimal and realistic depiction, to the point where even the late-film exorcism just feels like the next logical step in how a rural-suburban, god-fearing family would deal with an issue such as this, and left to make your own judgment.  In fact, I saw this most as a meditation on how one psychologically deals with the physical or mental malady of a loved one, or of oneself.  As Michaela’s loving but enabling father hides his daughter’s diagnoses from his overbearing wife so that Michaela can fulfill her dream of going to school, that priest practically salivates at the chance to use Michaela to make his bones as an exorcist, and her more secular friend tries to pull her back from the jaws of religious fanaticism, it’s interesting to see how Michaela herself just tries to live her own life, succumbing to the pressure of a research paper, and finally lets all the divergent opinions of those around her influence her decision on whether it’s a brain defect or a demon afflicting her.  Bad things just happen to good people, and Michaela’s eventual breakdown, convincing herself of the extraordinary circumstances of her affliction, speak of how any of us just want an explanation for everything, to justify random bad luck with the idea that it just had to happen for a reason.  And all this is presented behind the scenes, in a straightforward, chronologically linear, objective account, where we can only sit there and helplessly observe, lament, and finally stew when that pre-credits blurb comes up telling us what became of the real-life inspiration for Michaela.


Paranormal Activity (Oren Peli, 2007)

I guess it does live up to the hype, the proof of that being that after it was over, I went to get my laundry out of the dryer and found myself shoving it into the basket and hurrying out of my dark basement as quickly as possible. So it certainly got under my skin, this despite an incredibly patternistic and predictable formula of ‘exposition by day, scares by night’. Despite that, though, such a defined pattern may have actually helped its status as a successful horror film, as you’re trained rather quickly on when to expect to be scared. When the lights go out and you’re watching Katie and Micah sleep, you’re expecting something spooky to happen, and for those events to get progressively spooky as the film progresses; your senses are so heightened during these night scenes, you’re paying so much attention to every little thing in the frame, wondering ‘did that picture frame move an inch or two? was that sound a rusty pipe or an otherworldly presence walking across the floor? did that bedspread really just blow upwards as if by a supernatural wind, or was I just imagining it?’, that when the obligatory jump moment happens, it scares the shit out of you that much more because you’re so tuned into the image and the silence before you. A rather ingenious use of the bomb-under-the-table formula, helped by a pleasantly surprising lack of those jump moments, so that their effect doesn’t become saturated and diminished. Unfortunately, it could’ve been so much better if I had actually given a damn about the two people being terrorized by this unseen demon, but that’s pretty much sabotaged by how generally annoying Kate and Micah are, Micah in particular for how his douchebaggery really knows no bounds. Fine, he’s supposed to be the reads-no-instructions, asks-for-no-directions sort, but it gets old after a while. So what, Katie, the source of the demon’s boner, needs her asshole boyfriend’s permission to call an exorcist? But I digress… I’m complaining about a lack of believable character behavior taking me out of a film’s supposed realism when this is a film about a couple being haunted by an invisible demonic force. Point is, in an age where ‘horror’ = ‘gory remake’, this was refreshingly simple.


Halloween II (Rob Zombie, 2009)

And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder: One of the four beasts saying: “Come and see.” And I saw. And behold, a white horse.


The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke, 2009)

It’s so much more than, say, a Children of the Corn for intellectuals, because frankly you’re never quite sure the kids really did do all the fucked up stuff, despite how creepy they come off (especially the pastor’s older daughter, the one who does the thing to the bird and clearly has mental issues of some kind yet makes it a point to be respectful and polite towards grown-ups and strangers – one of the creepiest children I’ve ever seen in a movie). In fact, it feels like finding out “whodunnit” isn’t the point in the least – someone set a wire that tripped the doctor, someone beat up the retarded kid, someone set the baron’s barn on fire, someone was likely responsible for the “accident” that killed the woman at the mill. Is it the same person? Different people working in conjunction, or for completely different reason? Honestly, who cares? The point is that a wire between two trees that tripped a doctor on a horse sets off a chain reaction of people becoming suspicious of neighbors they’ve known for generations, of sexual and physical abuse, of an always-caring and dutiful mother and her son disappearing under mysterious and distressing circumstances.  Even the teacher (and narrator’s) courtship of the shy nanny for the baron, the nicest and most innocent subplot in the film, is tinged with unease in this town slowly and subtly going to hell.

The town’s structure is remarkably simple – the baron and his family are in charge in their big, fancy house, and all the people in town – the pastor, the doctor, the steward, the farmers – all know their purpose and serve it, and the way so much of the misgivings and hatred that develop over the course of the film seem to be aimed at the baron – the fire, the appalling mistreatment of his spoiled young son, the ruining of his crops, it’d be easy to say that Haneke is making an anti-authoritarianism statement, that the ruination of this tiny pre-World War I farm town is a microcosm of the coming storm of Nazism, that a seemingly stable society in which one man or family is in charge and everyone else does a different task towards a common goal of essentially serving that man, is destined to fail when the flapping of a butterfly’s wings, or a wire tripping a doctor’s horse, begins a chain reaction of misgivings and the slow rotting of that society.  And yet, “The White Ribbon” feels so much more apolitical than that simple explanation.  In a more common genre picture, the town likely would’ve devolved into all-out chaos and violence, but not here.  It’s structured almost like an Altman film, as we get to know many different people and families in the village, each getting enough screentime for us to learn about them, and the secrets that begin to come out.  The doctor is initially the victim of a tripwire and thus garners our sympathy, but soon is revealed to be a cruel monster towards his mistress and possibly sexually abusive towards his young daughter.  The pastor is seemingly cruel to his children, but in an odd kind of way seems to truly believe that his embarrassing them by making them wear a white ribbon and otherwise treating them like inferior soldiers in a platoon, is in their best interest, so his motivations and true nature are also impossible to discern.  And we see it all like the teacher narrates it, as objective observers, for the black-and-white cinematography and technical qualities of the film are that good, the camera often gliding through a scene like how our eyes would look back and forth at its players (the occasional stagnant shot of, say, a character leaving and entering a room so that we stay outside that room, or some other non-moving camera shot, will draw too much attention to itself and be to the film’s detriment, but generally this is rare), making the proceedings feel that much more natural, that despite how little sense the bizarre events make, how the clues just don’t add up, it really feels like the fate of this town couldn’t go down any other way.  The moral and intellectual destruction of this town happens almost completely behind the scenes, as we see only the results of the violent acts, never the acts themselves, and unlike, say, von Trier’s “Dogville,” the ruination of the town isn’t physical, but emotional; not involving mass death and the smoldering ruins of buildings, but the introduction of suspicions and mistrust that will only increase over time, and for that reason it’s much more insidious.  I can’t be entirely sure what Haneke’s trying to say about human nature, but if a tripwire can be the catalyst for such an outwardly organized and religiously-based town abandoning the basic tenet of Love-Thy-Neighbor, essentially becoming a ticking time bomb of misgivings that no Sunday church service will cure, no matter how innocuous and ‘back to normal’ that service seems, it can’t be good.


Ripley’s Game (Liliana Cavani, 2002)

Cool movie. Cavani pours on the surface visual excess to no end, but that’s probably a good thing, as that’s probably how Tom Ripley, whose patronage of the arts is bested only by his ego, sees the world around him: he’s craftier and smarter than everyone around him (at least as he sees things), not afraid to use violence, and any and every opportunity that comes his way isn’t an opportunity for success, but an opportunity to amuse himself. Once you get past all of Malkovich’s Malkovichisms (he’s one of the few actors I can think of whose last name can be used as a verb. You can’t put into words what “Malkoviching” is, but when you see him do it, you just know what it is…), his Ripley is a fascinating and ultimately unreadable character – does he try to pull the plug on his little game of allowing his terminally ill neighbor to become a murderer-for-hire out of sympathy or pity, or simply because it no longer amuses him, or would no longer be to his advantage? Deep down he probably has some kind of twisted admiration for that neighbor, or his own wife, as you can see when he does seem to look at her with a prideful smile as she plays her harpsichord, but then you see him taunt his neighbor with those insect pictures he wants to hang in his house, a day after that neighbor killed a man in the insect house at the zoo, and it’s pretty obvious that an almost child-like sense of humor and need for amusement at the expense of others parallels that slight virtue at best, and completely trumps it at worst. The scenes between the terminally ill Dougray Scott and his predictably worried / spurned wife Lena Headey are bland and unoriginal (although Dougray Scott’s Jonathan’s descent into raving madness in defending his sudden coming-into of wads of money to his disbelieving wife is oddly funny, whether that was intentional or not), as is pretty much any scene without Malkovich, but what’re you gonna do, it speaks to how good Malkovich is, where his as-usual ridiculous flair for the dramatic works because it matches the flair for the dramatic of the character he’s playing. Throw in those great sets and overall look, an effective and different score by Ennio Morricone (along with an effective use of the oft-utilized Host of Seraphim – this is the third film I’ve seen that’s used that piece, along with Baraka and The Mist), a climax that’s like Home Alone / Straw Dogs in a bigger and nicer house, and a very morbid, very violent, and very funny take on the famous train cabin scene from the Marx Brothers’ “A Night at the Opera” (train in this film, boat in the case of Marx Brothers…), and you’ve got a fun movie – an admittedly unoriginal and uninteresting premise and story (this isn’t the first film based on that particular Tom Ripley novel, after all) made very, very interesting by a very, very interesting anti-hero. When you watch Ripley walking through his monstrously large, monstrously empty house at night, as men might be coming to kill him at any moment, and the mournful “Host of Seraphim” plays in the background, you can feel the loneliness and isolation oozing out of this man, but in the movie’s big cynical twist, not even he can recognize his own loneliness and isolation, and in fact, he may actually relish it.


25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002)

…and you cannot take the “sheeeeeeeyit” out of Isiah Whitlock Jr., whether he’s playing Clay Davis or otherwise.

But all kidding aside, this might be the best thing Spike’s ever done (I’ve only seen 3 of his movies, and one of those was the ultimate doing-it-for-the-paycheck movie, Inside Man   ), from the big fuck-you montage where Spike’s ripping off his own movie, but it’s just as genuine and powerful (and filled with Monty’s agonizing desire to lash out at the world that he purports to have screwed him, but filled even more with his own self-loathing, that his predicament is the result of nobody’s fault but his own, but will not admit it outwardly), to the final Brian Cox-narrated “Last Temptation of Christ”-esque segment that should and will move you to tears (I’ve never seen Last Temptation of Christ ) to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Jacob going through with what he’s been dying to do, and the incredible sense of regret and despair that results – a good Shakespearean-esque minor parallel to the main plot. I disagree with reviews I’ve read that claim that the women are essentially pushed to the side – true, the men get the bulk of the screentime, and excellently so – you really feel like these three guys have known and loved each other their entire lives, the screenplay is that cliché-free – but I also felt that Rosario Dawson’s Naturelle was one of the strongest of all the characters: true she’s chosen to stick by the side of this loser drug dealer as long as she has, and maybe Barry Pepper’s Frank is on to something when he dares to suggest that she’s simply a golddigger, but there was just something there between her and Monty, some indescribable bond like she understands him better than he understands himself, and thankfully neither Spike nor David Benioff try to explain that bond overtly (Anna Paquin’s shrill schoolgirl, on the other hand, left something to be desired in the character development department – but then again, the whole point is for her to be an attractive and untouchable enigma for Jacob, so maybe it works after all). The screenplay can get wordy, like when Jacob and Frank are discussing the doom of their relationship with Monty on the eve of his prison sentence, in a scene overlooking Ground Zero (the 9/11 parallel to the overall sense of doom for the bond between these characters was surprisingly understated, despite Spike’s as-usual bombastic music cue when Ground Zero is first seen outside of Frank’s window), but thankfully not too wordy when it comes to the bonds between and the pasts of these characters, merely hinted at in short flashbacks and only discussed in the faintest hint of hindsight. The layers within this story abound, both philosophically (the 9/11 feelings hanging over everything like a specter) and the rich relationships between these people who both love and hate each other. Where so many night-in-the-life movies just try to ape Altman and cram in as many stories and “relationships” as it can to try to feel epic or something, this story of Monty’s last night of freedom, his coming to terms with his own mistakes, and how that’s affecting his girlfriend, best friends, father, and dog, gets it right – so simply told, yet incredibly complex. The mere thought of a stupid and greedy drug dealer contemplating going on the run to avoid a 7-year prison sentence because he’s afraid of getting raped should inspire zero sympathy for such a man, but by the time Brian Cox is laying out the American dream, to the point where you’re really not sure whether what you’re seeing is real or imagined, it isn’t just Monty being tempted with freedom, it’s you being tempted with the thought of an outward loser like Monty attaining freedom, and it is very tempting.


The Host (Joon-ho Bong, 2006)

When you put aside “The Host”‘s not-so-subtle…okay, insultingly blatant…pro-environment, anti-American, anti-Formaldehyde message and the overall campiness and exploitativeness, you’ve got a surprisingly deep and fun and interestingly-constructed little monster movie in this, Korea’s all-time highest grossing movie.  So all the Americans are either evil, cross-eyed, or both, the monster looks about as convincing as the Rancor in “Return of the Jedi” from 27 years ago, and just about everyone outside of the family of protagonists are little more than Victims #’s 1-8000, but it’s a gross monster movie trying and failing to make a grand political message (it’s kinda cute how hard it tries to be something special…), so shut up and watch and have fun.  But, there is something interesting afoot when you get past the schlockiness, because call me crazy, but the family dynamic was done very, very well.  Naturally just about every monster movie deals with the whole dysfunctional family being forced to come together in the face of adversity, but in terms of dysfunctional-family-being-forced-to-come-together-in-the-face-of-adversity movies, even ones where that adversity isn’t in the form of an amphibious man-eating squid, this one pretty much nailed it.  The acting and the characters themselves are silly, no doubt, but it’s an interesting family dynamic regardless, with the shopkeeper father and his three grown-up, dysfunctional, completely different children coming together to save the ne’er-do-well son’s precocious young daughter from the vile clutches of the beast.  Together, they’re the consummate fuck-ups, and they outwardly can’t stand each other as the college graduate son and bronze medal-winning archer daughter look down on their brother and ol’ dad has to come to his boy’s defense, but to see them not just have to, but want to put aside their differences to save that little girl is pretty damn endearing, and a surprisingly deep and unique family structure for what’s otherwise a man-eating monster movie.  The parallel story structure is a major factor in keeping your attention, as the story shifts between the family’s inept but sincere attempt to rescue Gang-Du’s daughter while evading both the authorities and the title character, and the little girl surviving Bear Grylls-style in the monster’s lair.  “The Host” isn’t exactly the pinnacle of great storytelling (after a rather thrilling climax, the very end is, well, 😕 .  Also, I wasn’t aware that that was a typical result of a frontal lobotomy…), especially when those filthy, heartless Americans rear their ugly heads, but it still has that nice story of a family coming to terms with each other and their flaws, to go along with all the cool and gross death scenes.  Also helps that the tone of the story is literally all over the place.  One minute it’s a straight-up monster-jumps-out-of-the-corner horror movie (one of the stalest of all genres, but a few of the scares here were impressive), the next a family drama, the next a slapstick comedy.  It’s a mess, sometimes to its detriment but more often just making the proceedings more interesting – one minute this movie would take itself way too seriously with the drama and the messages and what-not, and the next it’d just take the plunge into good, chintzy fun.  Sometimes the humor works, and sometimes it’s really awkward (case and point the weird-ass…what do I call it…brawl? amongst the family members at a public memorial for the monster’s victims that was like a poor man’s Three Stooges).  So often “The Host” is right on track as a surprisingly human drama amidst the backdrop of a monster haunting the Han River, other times it doesn’t know which way is left.  What does that get you?  Damn good television (because I watched it on a television…).